If you live in Tennessee, then you will know that the state has both CT and ET, depending on where you live. But, is Tennessee the only state with two time zones?
Tennessee is not the only state to sit in two time zones. Thirteen different states sit in two time zones. Some of these states are a bit more evenly split than others. For example, while a third of Tennessee sits in a different time zone from the rest of the state, only a small chunk of Florida is in a different time zone from the rest of Floria.
Let’s explain. Hopefully, we can give you more of an idea about why certain states have multiple time zones too!
Which States Have Two Time Zones?
Let’s start by telling you about all the states that are split across two time zones.
Tennessee covers both Central and Eastern time zones. As you can probably guess, the eastern side of the state is on ET, while the western side of the state is on CT. The CT zone starts about a third of the way in from the east of the state. This means that the major cities of Chattanooga and Nashville are in completely different time zones.
Idaho is one of those cases where only a small part of the state is in a different time zone. The vast majority of Idaho is in MT, but as you get to the top of the state, it changes to PT.
A tiny chunk of Oregon is in MT, while the rest of the state is in PT.
Central Time is the main time zone for Kansas. However, a small amount of the western side of the state is on Mountain Time.
Almost all of the population of Nebraska lives in the Central Time zone, but a small amount to the west is in MT.
Most of the state is in the central time zone, with a small amount in mountain time.
This is one of only a few states where the split between time zones is almost perfect. Half of South Dakota is in CT, and the other half is in MT.
El Paso and the immediate area are on MT. The rest of the state is in CT.
Almost all of Florida is in the Eastern Time zone, with the panhandle being in CT.
Indiana is a bit of an oddity because it is clear that the government has decided to draw the time zone lines to avoid major population areas. This means that there isn’t an even split that goes through the state. The north and the extreme south of the state are on Central Time, owing to their major populations and the government not wanting there to be a huge change in time zones. However, the bit in the middle of these two areas is all on ET, as is the rest of the state.
Kentucky is almost evenly split between CT and ET. The western half of the state is in CT and the eastern half is in ET.
The state is divided into the CT and ET time zones. The split is roughly along the middle of Lake Michigan, with a few deviations to avoid various populations.
Alaska has its own time zone, while small islands in Alaska (the Aleutian Islands) share a time zone with Hawaii.
Why Do States Have Multiple Time Zones?
Now, you would think that to make things not quite so confusing, a state would stick to the same time zone across the board, right? Well, no. We admit that there being multiple time zones does serve to make things a touch confusing, but there is a reason for it.
The planet is divided into multiple time zones. While not 100% scientifically accurate, each time zone is based on the position of the sun in the sky. The aim is for each time zone to have the sun at its highest point when the clock strikes midday.
Because the US is so big, it crosses multiple time zones. It stands to reason that some of these time zones are going to cross right through the center of states. Some states are so big that the sun will rise and set at completely different times depending on where you are in the state. Because of this, you don’t want those two sections of the state to be in the same time zone. If they were running in the same time zone, then one section of the state would have an hour less of daylight and an hour more of nighttime.
The Department of Transportation, at the request of Congress, is tasked with determining how the time zone boundaries work for these states. While it is obvious for some states (since they only sit in a single time zone), things get a bit more confusing with states in multiple time zones.
In theory, the time zone lines can be drawn at a state line. Nothing is stopping the government from doing that, and several other countries have done this. However, the US decided to go down a different route. It was happy for a state to have multiple time zones, as long as it didn’t impact too many people i.e. you wouldn’t see a time zone line going through a major city.
This is why Indiana is odd with its time zones. The time zone boundaries have been drawn to ensure that the major towns and cities in the north and south of the state share the same time zone as the neighboring states. It makes it far less jarring when traveling between two areas.
Tennessee is just one of thirteen states in multiple time zones. These states need multiple time zones because of their size. If you are ever in a state with multiple time zones, there will be clear signs that tell you when you need to change the time on your watch.